In a huge respite to protesting farmers in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court’s Madurai bench on Tuesday ordered the state government to waive off loans acquired by farmers in cooperative societies and asked the officials to stop penal actions against them.
The HC took cognisance of farmers from the state protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi for the last 20 days. Earlier, the state government had only cancelled loans for farmers owning up to 5 acres of land.
The division bench directed the government to expand waiver to cover all farmers irrespective of the land owned by them and restrained revenue officials from initiating any penal or recovery proceedings against farmers who had defaulted on crop loan repayments.
The court has also called the categorisation discriminatory and not an intelligible criterion.
We are aware that the financial situation of the state government is grim. The chief secretary in her letter to the advocate general also reiterated the same. The state government is already single-handedly shouldered the burden to the tune of Rs 5,780 crore and it will be additional burden to bear Rs 1,980.33 croreDivision bench of Madras High Court
The HC ruling will benefit at least 3.01 lakh farmers who fall in the ‘other’ category and kept away from the government decision. It will also mean an additional financial burden of Rs 1,980 crore to the state government. The earlier loan waiver order by the government cost the exchequer Rs 5,780 crore and benefited 16.94 lakh marginal and small farmers who owned up to 2.5 acres and up to 5 acres of land respectively.
The bench said that the Centre too should step in to share the burden.
In this difficult situation, the central government cannot be a silent spectator. It should come forward to extend the help to the state government to share the burden. We are hopeful that the government of India will share the burden with the state government and extend maximum financial help to the state government to tide over the situationDivision bench of Madras High Court
The protesters at at Jantar Mantar termed the verdict as a huge victory and also requesting the Centre to waive off farm loans from centralised banks as well.
Over 100 farmers from Tamil Nadu, carrying the skulls of those who have committed suicide, have been staging a protest in the national capital since 14 March demanding that the Centre announce a drought relief package and loan waiver for peasants from the state. Tamil Nadu is suffering the worst drought in the last 140 years.
The decision was taken by the HC following a petition filed by the farmers’ association.